ASE in progress, next stop Budapest – Esotericism conference update

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism (ASE – the American older sister of ESSWE) is happening at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY) these days, with an interesting lineup and topic. It’s not the only esotericism event to take place this summer, however: As previously noted here there is a new regional network of ESSWE around – CEENASWE, focusing on central and eastern Europe – and they are holding their launching event in Budapest on July 4-5. The program is quite impressive for such a young network, including speakers from Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Israel, the Netherlands, the US, etc., giving papers on topics ranging from neopaganism in Serbia to Hungarian Freemasonry, from early-modern Christian Kabbalah to modern occultism, from literary expressions and visual art to neo-Gnosticism in modern Orthodox contexts. Much to look forward to.

And all the papers are in English, which gives a unique opportunity for international exchanges on these topics and sets a new precedence for work in this area in the years to come. It is really encouraging to see that solid scholarship on esotericism is not only expanding geographically, but that we’re also seeing new opportunities for integrating this work with the broader international community. It promises a healthy counterweight to a predominantly anglophone, French- and German-dominated field.




Conference on “Esoteric Practices” – ASE call for papers

This call for papers for the next ASE conference (Association for the Study of Esotericism) has already circulated for a while, but since the deadline is still two months away (January 15 to be exact) it can still be circulated some more. The ASE is the American sister organization of the ESSWE, and the idea has been that these two societies will offer their biannual conferences in alternating years. Thus, we had ESSWE4 in Gothenburg in 2013, and will get ASE5 at Colgate University, Hamilton NY in 2014.

The topic that ASE has chosen for next year’s conference is I think an excellent one: “Esoteric Practices: Theories, Representations and Methods”. It’s an excellent idea because, quite surprisingly, there has been very little research on practice in this field. This is largely due to a bias towards “ideas” and “systems of thought” and historical genealogies, and a lacking engagement with social scientific research communities (anthropologists and ethnographers above all). That does not mean that no such research exists – it does, and especially outside of the context of “esotericism scholarship” as institutionalised in the family of journals, book series and scholarly societies that identify as such. But conceptualisations of “esotericism”  (whether as a theoretical object or a historical phenomenon) have not sufficiently looked at the practical dimension or engaged the research that already exists. There are notable exceptions, of course, but not many.